Winter Chimney Risks in Wisconsin
The first snowfall of the season has an undeniably magical feeling, especially when you can watch it fall beside a crackling fire. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s frosty weather can wreak havoc on your chimney system. Lighting up your fireplace for the holidays could risk the health and safety of your loved ones if there is a hidden danger in the chimney. You can protect your home from the top two winter chimney risks in Wisconsin.
Risk #1: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Squirrels, raccoons, birds, and other critters are drawn to the warmth of your chimney just like you are attracted to the heat of the fireplace. Sadly, if they find a way into the flue and make a nest, they could put you and themselves at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is the most lethal toxic gas in smoke. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, a dull headache, nausea, shortness of breath, weakness, and vomiting. Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can cause irreversible brain damage or death. It is hazardous if you lose consciousness or breath it in while you are sleeping. It can kill you overnight.
Prevention is the most effective method to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. The only way to detect it is with a functioning carbon monoxide detector.
Animal nests aren’t the only potential obstructions in your chimney that could increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The flue could also be blocked by dead leaves and debris, thick creosote, or broken pieces of the flue liner.
Prevention: Chimney Cap & Cleaning
- A chimney cap is an affordable addition that keeps critters, leaves, and other debris out of your chimney. Homes with a chimney cap are at a significantly lower risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- An annual chimney cleaning, which includes an inspection, reduces the risk of carbon monoxide even more. A chimney sweep will remove thick creosote deposits that could clog the flue along with any other obstruction. They will also look for signs of a broken flue liner that needs to be repaired.
Risk #2: Masonry Damage
The weather rarely stays consistently below freezing all winter long. This leads to a constant freeze-thaw cycle that can damage your masonry chimney. Bricks and mortar are porous, allowing them to absorb sleet and snow.
When this moisture freezes, it expands inside the masonry. It contracts when the water thaws. Throughout the winter, as the water expands then contracts inside the masonry, it weakens the masonry. Cracks can begin to form. Pieces can start falling off. By the end of the winter, your brick-and-mortar chimney might not look as healthy. Over time, this freeze-thaw cycle can erode your chimney masonry, weakening the entire structure.
Prevention: Waterproofing Sealant
- Chimney waterproofing sealant that’s professionally applied is the best solution to ensure your chimney lasts for a lifetime. Be sure to work with a chimney expert who uses the correct type of waterproofing sealant that’s made for chimneys. Home repair contractors who aren’t trained in chimney maintenance often use the wrong type, leading to internal moisture problems.
Nothing puts a damper on holiday festivities more than emergency hospital visits and unexpected home repair costs. However, you can prevent these risks by being proactive and ensuring your chimney is protected against obstructions and moisture damage. Stop by Burlington Fireplace and Solar or give our service team a call if you need to prepare your chimney for Wisconsin’s harsh winter weather.